Best Concept: Her Story
Writer-director Sam Barlow is no stranger to unique concepts, having created the interactive fiction game Aisle back in 1999, which required only a single move to complete. In developing Her Story, he got even more creative, taking an antiquated gaming visual technique and making it relevant once again for modern audiences. While a few full motion video games were successful in the ‘90s, many failed due to poor production values and limitations in both technology and budget, and their brief popularity soon died out. Twenty years later, Barlow has thrown away convention and changed our notions of how FMV can be used. His game harks back to the ‘90s not just in spirit but also in setting, simulating a decades-old PC desktop, the fluorescent glare of ceiling lights on a CRT screen, and a series of unorganized video clips that unravel a mystery.
What makes Her Story so good, however, is not a comfortable nostalgia for the past but its clever approach to storytelling through gameplay, as you input search words and phrases in order to view tagged video fragments of a young woman interviewed by police on film following the disappearance of her husband. There’s no exploration, no inventory, no worlds to explore, just a captivating narrative experience to be pieced together as you go. Instead of being a passive observer watching events play out in a linear fashion, you're intrinsically connected with the case through your own thoughtful diligence, and are left to your own devices to make sense of what you uncover in non-chronological order. It’s even up to you to decide when you’ve seen enough. Whereas some players may feel they've explored enough to conclude their investigation within a couple of hours, others may want to dig deeper, to keep going until they've fleshed out every last story detail. We suspect most people did the latter, because the process is so addictive and the payoff so worthwhile. For revolutionizing the way an FMV story can be told, Her Story takes home the Aggie for Best Concept of the year.
The Black Watchmen: Season 1
Readers’ Choice: Her Story
Was there really any doubt? Just when you think you have a grasp on what an adventure game can be, along comes an ambitious new designer to throw those expectations out the window. No exploration, no inventory, no endgame closure… no problem! Like the best ideas, Sam Barlow’s fusion of interactive fiction and live-action presentation seems so obvious in retrospect, it’s a wonder it hasn’t happened before. But it took Barlow to make it reality, and for that he’s the first unanimous winner among both staff and readers for Best Concept of 2015.
Life Is Strange
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Next up: Best Setting... the envelope, please!
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